Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Want More Effective Marketing Content? Start by Defining Your Audience

If you want your business to get noticed, reinforce its credibility and ultimately win new customers, you probably know that you have to create an ongoing stream of high-quality marketing content. But what if you're already doing that, only to find that it's having no effect on your bottom line? It may be time to take a closer look at whether you're actually aiming that compelling content at the right people -- because if you aren't, then it isn't (compelling, that is).

Content Marketing for One

Drawing the clearest possible picture of your target audience involves getting as granular as you possibly can, visualizing not a specific industry, not a specific audience segment, but a specific person. It's no wonder that some of history's most successful authors pretended that they were writing for one particular individual; this approach clarified their approach, style and tone, while guaranteeing that at least one sort of reader would be electrified by the content. On a less elevated level, "King of All Media" Howard Stern has often said that he doesn't even try to entertain the whole world; instead, he focuses entirely on making co-host Robin Quivers laugh. The purer an image you have of your audience, the purer (and more effective) you can make your marketing content.

How do you create this ideal client or customer? Don't just use your imagination or instincts -- use data. Collect all the information you can about your current clientele's demographics, behaviors, likes/dislikes, geography, et cetera. Then distill all this information on paper in the form of an audience persona. There's a great sample here with no fewer than 50 relevant questions to help you build a detailed, if hypothetical, ideal target for your marketing content.

Finding the Right Words for Your Target Market

Specificity is critical regardless of which marketing channels you use. For instance, my networking group gives each member a moment during the meeting to describe his or her ideal referral for that week. That's a powerful marketing opportunity -- but not when the description consists of phrases such as "somebody who needs X" or "any company who could use help with Y." These folks aren't likely to get any referrals from me that week. Why not? Because "someone" or "anyone" doesn't give me a clear mental image of the person that networking partner wishes to get hooked up with. And if you're having trouble stating exactly who your ideal referral is, there just might be a chance that you haven't defined that image clearly enough in your own mind. Time to get to work on that audience persona!

Having that all that, I should point out that it's possible to make your parameters too narrow. For instance, I might declare that my ideal prospects are people with the job title of Marketing Coordinator. After all, marketing coordinators are the ones who assign marketing tasks such as content creation to professionals like me, right? But what about business owners -- don't they need the services of freelance copywriters and other marketing experts? Maybe I should step back a bit and name my ideal prospects as "marketing decision makers." This still gives me a well-defined chunk of the population to address, while ensuring that I don't accidentally exclude an important market.

Get clear on who you want to talk to, and finding the right words will come a lot more easily. If you're not a natural wordsmith, a professional marketing writer can help you craft powerful, persuasive statements aimed at that perfect prospect. But however you do it, get specific -- and get results!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Different Content for Different Applications: Blogs vs. Email Marketing vs. Direct Mail

If you've been involved with marketing for any length of time, you're well aware of the need to put fresh, relevant content in front of your target audience on a regular basis. You may also understand the need to approach different kinds of audiences with variations in content, style and tone. What how does your choice of medium impact what you say and how you say it? Let's look at three popular content marketing channels -- blogs, email drip campaigns and direct mail -- to see how these different media use written content.

Content for Blogs

Your organization's blog can serve a multitude of purposes as a powerful inbound marketing tool. It's your website's dedicated news channel, announcing important advances, product or service rollouts, changes in key personnel and other exciting tidings. It's a thought leadership resource, feeding your readers valuable information that they can use in their own lives. It can even act as a straight-up billboard to promote that big upcoming sale. For the most part, however, these tidbits are presented in the form of articles -- articles meant to pop up in search results when your prospect seeks the online solution to a pressing problem or question. So you want to create genuinely helpful, interesting, engaging articles on a wide range of "evergreen" topics that relate directly to what you do. Some of them might be bound to a specific time of year or situation, while others are presented more as introductions to basic concepts -- not sales pitches. A critical feature of blog articles is the judicious use of keywords in your titles, headers and body text -- with them, you can expect your wisdom to go unread.

Content for Email Drip Campaigns

On the surface, email articles for drip marketing campaigns may not appear too different from blog articles, offering a few hundred words of useful information in an entertaining, readable manner. But there's one big difference -- these articles are written as responses to specific actions taken (or not taken) by the readers. For example, prospects who expressed initial interest in a product but failed to buy it might receive an article about how to select the ideal (whatever the product is) for their needs, prompting them to take a second look at the item they passed up. Email offers can be triggered in the same way. Customers who haven't purchased anything in, say, six months might receive a special "thank you" offer such as 10 percent off their next total purchase price. When you prepare these pieces, you first need to lay out a decision tree of directives: "If they do X, send them email Y," "If they don't do X, send them email Z," and so forth. You then create the individual content to suit each "if/then" trigger point in your plan.

Content for Direct Mail

Direct mail print marketing campaigns can take lots of different forms, from "personal" letters to colorful postcards, and they may use the same automated triggering strategy as an email drip campaign. But they also tend to have a broader, more general reach because the initial round of mail is sent out to everyone in a particular set of zip codes, not just those who have had previous dealings with the brand. The content you create for these pieces must therefore make a bigger, louder, more sales-y splash than either blog content or targeted email content. You might include a few lines of information or education text in there somewhere, but let's face it -- most people are conditioned to receive their serious information online, especially in this age of mobile marketing via smart devices. So save your brassiest, most blatant promotions, sales, announcements, and calls to action for the printed word, and let the other media do the heavy lifting.

All three types of marketing can be highly effective in helping you increase sales and grow your business. Just make sure you're using each medium to its best advantage by providing the right content for the right job. And if you find it all a bit overwhelming, don't hesitate to contact a professional copywriter for help!